One of my first wood projects ever was a small carving of a Celtic knot that I pulled from Wood Magazine (Aug 95: Tanglewood Fireball Pendant). At the time I only had access to a scroll saw and a Dremel so it seemed to fit my skills perfectly. Although I went in several different directions with my projects since then, it has always served as a reminder of where I began.
It's a short list of tools this time. Scroll saw, Dremel, a few small chisels and a drill.
I had some leftover padauk on hand so I thought I'd share an updated and more intricate version that I put together. I kept adding more teeth to the edge to go for a saw blade look, but once it was shaped in red, it took on a more organic, winged appearance.
*Final photographs courtesy of my wife @ Pixl-Photography
-Final knot pendant
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Step 1: Planning
Start with a blank around 1" thick with room for a 3" circle. Use a compass to mark the border and mark the edges like a hexagon. Drop the size 3/8" and make another circle to guide the outer edges.
Using three of the outside points, make three arcs to connect the opposing sides. Vary the radius to get the thickness to about 3/8", leaving room in the middle for the arms to cross. Drop the compass down fairly small to mark all six outer teeth. I also added a trailing point behind the teeth to make the design a little more my own. Once you're satisfied with the design, drill the holes and cut it on the scroll saw.
-Scroll sawed blank
Step 2: Hand Carving
I've heard there are two types of artists: those who can assemble material and those who can sculpt it away. I'm definitely the former. Carving may not be your strength either but take this slow and you'll get through it in one piece.
Start by marking which arms of the knot go over and which go under. Use a small chisel to pare away the lower sections so the knot begins to appear. Flip the knot and continue the operation on the back.
Once the central transitions are complete, use paring cuts on the wings to give it a gentle slope. Since the blank I used was fairly thick, I marked the edges with a pen to guide my carving along the way.
When you've gone as far as you can without breaking anything, switch to the Dremel...
-Early chiseled-out crossovers
-Guides drawn on sides
Step 3: Power Carving
My progression through the bits was as follows:
Parabolic burr, rough large sanding drum, round burr, small fine sanding drum, small fine parabolic cutter
Starting with a heavy burr, shape as much of the profile as possible. Rounding over the edges and aim for an even thickness all around the wings. Continue to shape the crossovers but don't gouge out too much material.
Move to the rough drum and continue to smooth over the shape. Add gentle scallops to the insides of the teeth and blend them in on each side.
With the round burr, begin to carve beneath the crossovers but leave a small stub on each intact for strength. We'll use the fine cutter later to sever them.
Switch to a fine sanding drum (the smallest size you have) and refine the shape, taking care to remove all the tool marks you see without adding more of your own.
-Carving progression (Rough shaping, refining, sanding, undercutting)
Step 4: Fine Finishing
With the fine carbide carving burr, cut away the final supports and blend the arms around them. You want to avoid spikes, divots and angled edges. After you've removed all you can, switch to sand paper and polish all the surfaces up. Fold small pieces into lines to wrap around the crossovers to get the inside edges.
Go slow and hold the piece carefully. If you crack it, try again and make the arms a little thicker. Amazingly, I got this one on the first attempt; I didn't even need a step on correcting your mistakes!
Once you're satisfied with the shape, balance the carving on a triangle stand and spray it down with your finish of choice. I'm impatient so lacquer it was.
After it's dry, add the necklace with a small, flat, unobtrusive knot or eye hook. I used some leather since it seemed to fit well with the more organic carving.
-Final carving and sanding